Some of those who showed their paintings at the First Impressionist Exhibition in April 1874 simply didn’t stay the course. Pursuing your art above all else in comparative poverty for year after year takes a great deal of determination. Even for those like Monet and Renoir who achieved commercial success in their lifetime, it was a long and arduous road.
It’s a road that Édouard Béliard (1832-1912) started fairly successfully. The son of a merchant (although some claim his father was an architect), he was a pupil of Auguste-Ernest Hébert, Léon Bonnat (who was a year younger than him) and possibly Camille Corot. When he went on to the Académie Suisse, in 1860 he became a close friend of Camille Pissarro, and they painted in company not infrequently. Like Pissarro, most of his earlier work was destroyed by troops during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, but Béliard probably remained in France throughout the hostilities.
After the war, Béliard resumed painting in the company of Pissarro, and they were joined by Paul Cézanne, and sometimes Armand Guillaumin. They favoured the area around Pontoise, a town on the River Oise, a tributary of the Seine, to the north-west of Argenteuil and Paris.
Béliard may well have painted Boulevard de Fossés in Pontoise (1872-3) alongside Pissarro, Cézanne and Guillaumin in 1872.
According to the catalogue, Béliard showed four of his paintings at the First Impressionist Exhibition:
- Le Fort de la Halle, being a market porter from Les Halles in Paris, a painting owned by ‘MD’;
- Rue de l’Hermitage in Pontoise, a road also painted by Pissarro in 1874-75;
- The Auvers Valley, further up the Oise from Pontoise, and where he lived during the 1860s.
I have been unable to trace any of those paintings, though.
Two years later, at the Second Impressionist Exhibition, he showed eight landscapes, of which five showed Pontoise, although by this time Béliard had moved to Étampes to live.
Pontoise, View of the Lock (1872-5) was probably among those shown. Its composition is reminiscent of Sisley’s The Canal Saint-Martin, Paris (1872), and its style is similar to those of Pissarro and Sisley at that time.
Pothuis Quay in Pontoise, Effect of Snow (1875) may also have been exhibited in 1876, and is similar in subject and style to the winter scenes painted around Louveciennes by Pissarro and Sisley from 1870 onwards.
Béliard didn’t take part in the Third Impressionist Exhibition of 1877, but continued to paint, probably for a few more years.
Moulin de Chauffour, Effect of Snow (1878) is another winter scene from the area near Pontoise, although it’s rather less loose than similar paintings of the mainstream Impressionists at that time.
This rather anonynous Street Scene, which is undated, is recognisably early impressionist in its motif, composition, and style.
He exhibited paintings at the Salon in 1880 and 1881, and his last paintings appear to have been dated from about 1880-82, a career of just over twenty years. After those, he seems to have become involved in local politics, and served at the Mayor of Étampes, his home town, well to the south of Paris, between 1892-1900. It’s likely that he continued to paint for his private pleasure, but never exhibited again.
Following his death in 1912, an auction of the paintings remaining in his collection included 118 of his own making. Since then his paintings have all but vanished.